ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
September 14, 2006. This page
contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
HOW WILL THE CAMPS WORK?
By ERWIN CHLANDA.
The location of one hapless social engineering effort to curb the grog
mayhem in Alice Springs may well become the scene for another.
The objective is to make people who come to town and spend lots of
money on grog, and none on their lodgings in the creeks, to stay in
alcohol-free accommodation and pay money for it.
The omens last Saturday were not good.
The building of the defunct Tyeweretye Social Club was a gloomy
backdrop as Mayor Fran Kilgariff (ALP) and Federal Indigenous Affairs
Minister Mal Brough (Liberal) strolled through its expansive grounds,
adjoining the dog pound and Blatherskite Park show grounds.
That morning Mr Brough had fired a broadside at Chief Minister Clare
Martin, Ms Kilgariff’s political mentor, and a necessary partner in
brave alcohol initiative, but curiously absent.
Yet this did not seem to dampen Mr Brough’s enthusiasm to build “at
least two” itinerant camps, showing a lot more commitment –
financial and emotional – to solving Alice’s number one problem than Ms
Martin, who the day before was sniping at Mr Brough from Mutitjulu, in
the shadow of Ayers Rock.
“The people of Mutitjulu have asked [Mr Brough] to visit them and
explain why the community has been starved of funds since July 1,” Ms
Despite her latest flurry of concern for Mutitjulu she still hasn’t
confirmed nor denied having known since November 2004 about child rape,
rampant petrol sniffing and malnutrition in the community, as reported
in the Alice News on August 17.
“The community of Mutitjulu has called on the Federal Government to
restore funding and appoint a locally based CEO immediately,” said Ms
“The people of Mutitjulu are angry that an administrator appointed by
the Federal Government is trying to run the community from Perth.”
Only three hours before his stroll with Ms Kilgariff Mr Brough told
media: “Clare Martin’s comments were wrong, they border on the absurd.
“There is no cutting of funding. In fact it was the Northern Territory,
Minister McAdam, who was concerned about the community as well, and was
looking at the appointment of an administrator,” said Mr Brough.
“There is an administrator there.
“I didn’t appoint him. The administrator was appointed by the
“That is now before the courts.
“I want to stress to the people of Mutitjulu and the Northern Territory
that the Commonwealth has not cut funding to Mutitjulu.
“The Chief Minister was either mischief making, was plainly wrong or
was poorly advised.
“Her comments need to be retracted.”
It’s been a rough road to the itinerants camps so far in other respects
Mr Brough asked the NT Government to identify sites in Alice Springs
where camps could be built – possibly more than two – to cater for, as
it, “up and over 2000 people at different times” with “hundreds”
places needed at any one time.
The town council wasn’t told about this although it had some time ago
identified sites in a survey of its own.
When the list was made public it caused an uproar because some sites
were near residential areas and one adjacent to a bottle shop.
Not surprisingly Mr Brough was busy placating the public.
He said on Saturday there will be “definitely more than one site, at
least one in the north and one in the south, but that’s not to say we
have more than two sites.”
Mr Brough humbly described this as a “directive from traditional
owners, the Lhere Artepe people when I was here before.
“I made it very clear you don’t have camping grounds in the middle of a
CBD [nor] in the middle of a suburb.
“You need space. So that counts out a lot of those areas that were
looked at in the report commissioned by the [NT] lands department.”
What distance from residential areas would he nominate?
“We’ll look at all of these things ... everyone has a say and we’ll
discuss each individual site on its merits.
“The [NT] Government is doing some more with hostels ... and of course
people can stay in mainstream commercial accommodation as well.”
He says “ free isn’t an option for the itinerants camps and they will
be “self-sustaining”: his government will pay for capital works and
commercial lease will operate”, either by private enterprise or an NGO
The question remains, what will motivate the hundreds of illegal public
drinkers and illegal public campers, the scourge of the town for
decades, to mend their ways, stop drinking and pay for commercial
The task will be even tougher than now: currently drunks are taken to
sobering up shelters where they are staying for free.
In the Brough camps the cops driving the paddy wagons will need to say
something like: “Sir, we’ve arrived at the transient camp now. Do you
$30 to pay for the night?”
Says Mr Brough: “It will not work if the by-laws aren’t policed but I’m
absolutely confident they will be.”
Who’s given him that assurance, because the laws and by-laws haven’t
been enforced in the last 15 years?
“There’s been no capacity [to house the itinerants],” says Mr Brough.
“The laws exist, and policing of the laws that currently exist will be
possible one these sorts of places are operating.
“And at that stage you really have to have a zero tolerance towards
people dossing in the river or camping anywhere.
“It’s not on.
“I’m not having a go at the current or the previous councils at all,
[but] where is the capacity to house 2000 or 3000 people?
“It hasn’t been there.
“Maybe you’d like to take this up with the Mayor. She knows the problem
and is willing to be part of the solution.”
So far the council has been reluctant to take decisive action, partly
because of workplace safety issues for staff. .
Last Saturday Ms Kilgariff said: “When there are hostels there will be
places whereas now there are none.
“People are camping in the river. There is nowhere to take them.
“Short-term accommodation where they have to pay and which is alcohol
free should provide us with an alternative.”
Given that some people come here to drink and are not inclined to spend
money on accommodation, wouldn’t she have to show a great deal of
force a change?
In the past there has been a concern about putting by-laws officers in
harm’s way. Will that change?
Ms Kilgariff: “It will require close cooperation between the police and
ourselves, as it always has, for the people who actually want to be in
the creek and drinking ... but at least we’ll be able to move those
And the council will be moving them on?
“Yes, we will.”
The Tyeweretye Social Club, the site clearly favored by Mr Brough for
the “southern” camp, was one of many expensive initiatives to combat
abuse and its effects.
The idea was to provide a safe place for Aboriginal people to drink on
premises. In 1992 the club sued the Territory Liquor Commission for not
granting a license, and told the Supreme Court that the “defendant
to have any, or sufficient, regard to the wishes of the community”.
In 1994 the Race Discrimination Commissioner Zita Antonios said:
“An example of an initiative which would accord with the objectives of
Living with Alcohol is the proposed Tyeweretye Social Club ... limits
on availability [of alcohol] are unlikely to be an effective practical
solution ... dress regulations bar most Aboriginal people, particularly
town campers and bush dwellers, from almost all licenced premises ...
to the community initiative ... could potentially amount to
The club subsequently got its license but made little if any impact on
offensive public drinking: the club served light beer only, not the
of choice for problem drinkers.
There were massive brawls outside the venue, people were drinking cheap
wine, and repeatedly up to a dozen police cars rushed there with sirens
Some three years ago Tyeweretye shut its doors for good.
Some visitors to town are accommodated by Aboriginal Hostels in its
four properties across town, all of them full, according to general
manager Keith Clarke. Two are for visitors in town for medical reasons,
and one of these, Topsy Smith Hostel in Renner Street, will soon be
closed for redevelopment from a 20-bed to a 40-bed facility.
Mr Clarke says a bed, which may be in a share room, costs $21 a night,
including continental breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and a substantial
UNEATEN CAT IS TOP BUSH DELIGHT.
By KIERAN FINNANE.
The top place getters in the Wildfoods / Bushfoods competition between
them would make a sensational, uniquely Australian gourmet meal.
It would go like this:
As a starter: Witchetty Swags by Rorey McLeod. The 16 year old entered
as a Young Foodie but took out second place in the open domestic
and third in the people’s choice. He served up witchetty grub (which he
harvested himself) with capsicum slivers, wrapped in spinach and filo
Delicately flavoured, good texture, a genuinely delicious introduction
me) to eating witchetty. And what a great Central Australian name and
Entree: Twice Baked Barra and Lemon Myrtle Souffle. This topped the
professional category for Nerys Purdie of Oscars. The lemon myrtle and
in fine balance, this was also lovely to hold in the mouth – light and
tasty. And Purdie achieved an appealing bush food aesthetic with her
presentation, featuring a lemon myrtle leaf, standing up like a feather
in a hat.
People’s choice gave her equal second place.
Main: Rainforest Plum Kangaroo. Jonathan Zuniga of Bluegrass
restaurant took second place in the professional category and
first in the people’s choice for this succulent roo with a rainforest
plum sauce. The meat and
fruit in seductive competition on the palette made this a dish to
Dessert: Mille Feuille and Sambucca Quandong Compote.
Third place getter in the professional category, Steen Gundesen from
The Lane also found a way to get a dance going in your mouth, between
the appealing crunch of light pastry and nuts and the full fruity
flavour of the compote.
A second or alternative dessert: Candlenut and wattleseed praline with
lemon myrtle tropical fruits. This topped the domestic category for
Polglase. The light bush food flavours of the praline, which looked
broken into large shards, still allowed the individual tastes of the
fruit to come through.
Liqueur: Bush Tomato Vodka. Nic Hempel took third place in the domestic
category and second in the people’s choice for this brilliant idea. He
simply steeped the bush tomatoes in the vodka and served. The strong
fruity yet not
at all sweet taste and somewhat bitter aftertaste of the bush tomato is
suited to the liqueur experience.
I had the pleasure of being one of the judges in the competition – nice
work if you can get it! It ran over three heats held at Afghan
Traders and then a finals last Saturday at Kungkas Can Cook.
Judges were looking for presentation, originality, presence of
bushfoods/ wildfoods, aroma and taste, and overall impression. The
people voted for
There was fairly strong accord between the judges and the people, with
one exception. The people gave top prize to Michael La Flamme for his
“Gecko’s Revenge”, while the judges, dominated by professional chefs,
gave it bottom place in the domestic category. The dish was a simple
sausage in a bun,
quite tasty but not out of the ordinary until you knew what was in it –
Interestingly, while the majority of plates were all but licked clean
at the end of the competition there was still plenty of the Gecko’s
left. It seems that the people embrace La Flamme’s message on feral
with their hearts and minds but not quite with their mouths and
So will we soon see some of the excellent culinary inventions of the
competition in restaurants around town? Beat Keller , one of the
competition organisers, says Bluegrass and Oscars have both indicated
that they will be putting
their entries on their menus. And The Lane has Gundesen’s Mille Feuille
on its special board this week.
Meanwhile Afghan Traders stock a number of bushfood ingredients and
delicacies, including a wattleseed dessert syrup, commercialised by
Serendipity in collaboration with Outback Bush Foods, a small local
wholesaler run by Peter Yates. The
wattleseed in the syrup is harvested by Aboriginal women from Epenarra,
north of Alice Springs.
NEW MINISTER’S LATERAL THINKING.
By ERWIN CHLANDA.
A robust dose of lateral thinking is needed to solve the problems of
The Centre, says Elliot McAdam, the new Minister for Central Australia.
That includes job creation on black communities by taking advantage of
simplified 99 year land leases on Aboriginal country, and the
of private enterprise in the vexed issue of urban housing.
Mr McAdam says his government supports generously funded Commonwealth
plans to improve town camps and itinerant accommodation – but he’ll
keep a keen eye on this project to ensure it doesn’t fly in the face
the town’s expectations.
He sees housing of government workers on remote communities as a chance
of making a dollar for Aboriginal investors flush with royalties money.
And he’s excited about the recent build-up of a cattle herd on
previously defunct Aboriginal pastoral enterprises.
Above all, he is “very proud and privileged to be the Minister for
Central Australia” although he has “big shoes to fill after the
resignation of Peter Toyne who is a man of immense integrity”.
Mr McAdam says he will “engage with the community without fear or
favour, and be open and accessible”.
“I’m a straight shooter and want to be a formidable advocate” for
Central Australia which he considers to include the Barkly as well.
“It adds a bit of bite to the Barkly,” he says.
While we haven’t seen significant progress in Central Australia on
Aboriginal land “I’m absolutely certain the the Central Land Council,
the traditional owners, the private sector and the Northern Territory
Government will [achieve development through] joint partnership
Mr McAdam spoke with Alice Springs News editor ERWIN CHLANDA last week.
McADAM: I think 99 year leases [on Aboriginal land] provide a real
opportunity, certainly from a government perspective, for housing on
bearing in mind that we’ve always said [such leases] should be on a
Over time the changes to the [Federal Land Rights Act] which have been
agreed to by the land councils will provide a real economic boost.
For example, communities could use their royalty money to build houses
for staff on communities, such as teachers and police officers, and we
the houses from the communities. That would be a great opportunity. I’m
great believer in the marketplace.
But I don’t think we should get hung up about home ownership under
these arrangements, that shouldn’t be a panacea for the housing
shortage. Number one you’ve got to have a proper income to pay off a
loan and number two
you’ve got to have a market to on-sell.
The good thing about home ownership is it gives people a choice, but
there are other opportunities between the private sector, government
and public housing.
Territory Housing can actually build public housing on these
At the moment we’re locked into an indigenous program. We’re bringing
that together with our public housing program.
There are going to be some structural changes over the next few months.
NEWS: Would Territory Housing become a 99 year lessee of land?
McADAM: If we can negotiate security of tenure then Territory Housing
can go in and build houses which we can rent to people. But at the same
there could be opportunities for the private sector. I don’t think we
explored enough how we can provide dollars for indigenous housing.
are some really exciting opportunities.
NEWS: What about commercial enterprises, joint ventures?
McADAM: We can’t just say [to communities] there must be enterprises.
There are limitations to some communities. [You can’t just say] you
must become an economic dynamo ... but where there are sufficient
numbers of people
opportunities will arise. In Maningrida the Bawinanga Corporation has
a store in competition with the local store. They also have a hardware
These are emerging economies in their own right.
NEWS: These issues will determine the future of Alice Springs insofar
as the size of the urban drift will impact the town.
McADAM: That’s a hard question. There are lots of things I’m still
trying to come to grips with. One is the remote area exemption [from
the requirement for people on the dole to be looking for work and
taking available work]. I understand from public servants that if you
live within 90 minutes’ travel from where a job is offered you must
attend. I don’t think [all] people
have the economic means to rise to that kind of challenge.
NEWS: We carried a story last week that Canteen Creek is thriving under
the new policies.
McADAM: Canteen Creek is in my electorate. It’s a great little
community. It’s always been a very strong, independent community.
They’re using CDEP [but] they have some very strict rules and
NEWS: In your judgement will the new Federal policies improve
employment opportunities in the bush or will they accelerate urban
McADAM: It will vary. Where communities are very strategic and able to
build relationships with the outside, then it can work. The big
in Central Australia is to create a robust and sustainable economy.
the bottom line.
There are lots of opportunities out there. Look at the cattle industry.
There are about 25,000 head of cattle on redundant pastoral leases on
Aboriginal land, and the expectation is another 20,000 this year.
That’s from zero to 35,000 head in about four years. This is people
using their land. The cattle are going to the market. To me that’s
NEWS: There’s been a lot of tension between the three tiers of
government over town camps lately.
McADAM: What’s occurred in the last six months has been a very, very
important change. Number one there is recognition, by both the
Territory and the Commonwealth governments, that what we used to call
town camps should be incorporated
I’m absolutely happy with that. I’ve always held the view that
regardless of where you live you should be entitled to the same
services as anyone
In the past we tended to pass the buck between ourselves and the
Commonwealth and Tangentyere. [The camps aren’t] paying rates.
Now Alice Springs is maturing. It’s not a case of them and us. To me
that’s a very significant event.
By getting the town council and Tangentyere together we’re going to
standardise the provision of services, roads, rubbish and all that
stuff. Infrastructure will be upgraded, over time.
There is also recognition that the town camps are the places where
people from out of town come.
We know Tangentyere is concerned about that, the dysfunction, the
overcrowding, the grog.
NEWS: The proposals for a transient camp have confused and scared the
public. It’s hard to fathom who’s doing what.
McADAM: The Commonwealth have brought up these demountables. I know
there’s been a big concern here. It’s very important to understand that
was a Commonwealth initiative.
NEWS: Did they ask anyone first?
McADAM: They said they would bring these demountables to Alice Springs
and now they are here. We’ve always made it clear to the Commonwealth
Government that you’ve got to go through processes, like everyone else,
the Development Consent Authority (DCA).
You’ve got to involve the town council, the community. My understanding
now is that the majority of these demountables will got to communities
outside Alice. There is the potential that some will stay here as
managed short-term accommodation.
The NT Government’s model is different. We’ve gone out to an expression
of interest from businesses and NGOs in Alice Springs, $2.03m [is
What we’re saying, would you like to provide us a purpose-built, bricks
and mortar managed accommodation facility that would be secure. It’s
like the existing hostels.
We’re looking for the same sort of approach, similar to Stuart Lodge
[alongside Melanka] that’s presently being refurbished.
That’s going to be managed, same as the Keith Lawrie Flats [in
Bloomfield Street, currently being renovated from the ground up].
Before, what we did was put a whole lot of people in there.
NEWS: How will these facilities be managed in the future?
McADAM: We’re going to call for expressions of interest, from private
enterprise and NGOs [to manage and control the use of these
Each and every one [using transient accommodation] will be required to
pay a tariff. It could be $20, $30 or it could be $40.
And for the public housing around Alice Springs, in Larapinta, for
example, we’re going to go to a managed model as well.
It’s almost like a case managed model, it will be very intense for
people who need support from the system.
You’ll find people will have pride in their place. You go anywhere in
Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine, Darwin, you know which house
is Territory Housing.
What we’re saying to people, is, hey, listen, we want you to be our
tenants but at the same time we want you to take a bit of pride in your
As part of this managed model we’re talking about landscaping [by the
tenants], planting trees, that sort of stuff.
NEWS: How can you enforce participation in this?
McADAM: It’s a matter of engaging people. We may be talking about some
tenants who’re having a few problems. The case managed cluster models,
I call it, [will deal] with life skills, which Tangentyere are now
in the town camps. This will go right across public housing.
If you’re a good tenant and you make your house look nice, you never
know, there could be a week’s rent off!
NEWS: Will there be one transient camp or two?
McADAM: I don’t know yet. [So far as the NT Government’s project is
concerned,] if in the first expressions of interest we get a good
proposal we’ll have a look at another one.
NEWS: If a hotel or motel already zoned for accommodation comes up for
sale, would the matter need to come before the DCA and the Minister?
the site be used for transients without public or ministerial
McADAM: You can never drive anything from Canberra. The very fact that
we’ve now set up the implementation committee brings focus and rigor to
the project. And if I get a whiff that potentially something isn’t in
best interest of Alice Springs, no matter what project we’re talking
then clearly the antennas will go up. I see myself as an advocate for
Springs and Tennant Creek.
FOOTNOTE: The first meeting of the Town Camps Implementation Steering
Committee was held in Alice Springs on September 1. The Committee
includes the following bodies: Lhere Artepe, Tangentyere Council, Alice
Council, Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination (Australian
NT Police, Fire & Emergency Services; NT Department of Local
Housing & Sport; NT Department of the Chief Minister. Mr McAdam
he believes the Commonwealth will allocate about $10m to the project.
NEW BROOM FOR OLD SEAT: BIG FIELD OF LABOR.
COMMENT by ALEX NELSON.
A sixth candidate has thrown his hat into the ring for the by-election
Peter Tjungarray Wilson, married to a Warlpiri woman and currently
based at Mataranka, says he’s standing to “lend support to anybody
Father of five and jack of many trades, Mr Wilson has also helped his
wife raise her six grandchildren and the couple are now looking after a
He says former member for Stuart Peter Toyne betrayed the Warlpiri
people on customary law issues: “They wanted Aboriginal law made
was never even attempted and that’s morally wrong. He failed the
of his electorate and our grandchildren will pay dearly for his
He says what happened to Anna Machado, the CLP candidate in Stuart in
the last general election, is “a disgrace”. (Ms Machado and her
the lead-up to the election, were give less than 24 hours notice by the
Central Land Council to leave their business and home at Willowra.)
“If I can help get her over the line that’ll be good,” says Mr Wilson.
Ms Machado was Dr Toyne’s only opponent in last year’s election, which
he won with 71% of the first preference votes.
Whatever the result in the imminent by-election, his anointed successor
Karl Hampton is unlikely to get such massive support.
The CLP is fielding paired candidates Lloyd Spender-Nelson and Rex
Granites Japanangka, both from Yuendumu, who will direct preferences to
Ms Machado, back at Willowra, is running again, as a “CLP friendly”
independent, and Gary Cartwright, employed at Urapunga and a former
Labor MLA with strong ties to the northern part of the electorate, is
expected to direct preferences to the CLP.
Mr Cartwright announced his candidacy as a protest against
Labor’s five years in government .
Mr Hampton will be fifth on the ballot paper, with Mr Spencer-Nelson
first, then Ms Machado, Mr Cartwright, Mr Japanangka, and last, Mr
Stuart covers a massive 326,959.59 square kilometres, stretching to the
WA border, north of Top Springs, east along the Sandover and takes in
the town camps on the eastern side of Alice.
The NT Electoral Commission puts its population at 6353. Almost
85% are Aboriginal.
In 2005 just 59% of enrolled voters cast a vote, with 95.4% of them
FOES IN STUART POLL.
COMMENT by ALEX NELSON.
The electorate of Stuart is the oldest in the Northern Territory
and the only original seat still surviving from the commencement of the
Legislative Council in 1947.
The CLP running two candidates there isn’t new: I was one of them
battling against Brian Eade, who won and became Opposition Leader.
There were initially six electorates, of which two (Stuart and Alice
Springs) were based in the Centre – there were also seven official
members (usually bureaucrats) appointed by the Federal Government.
The first Member for Stuart was Jock Nelson (no relation) at the start
of his illustrious political career.
Nelson served one term in Stuart, afterwards becoming the NT’s Federal
representative (Labor). He was also Alice’s first mayor in 1971.
Nelson was succeeded briefly by Bill Braitling, a pastoralist, and in
turn was replaced in Stuart by another pastoralist, Bill Petrick, who
for 11 years.
In 1962 voters chose DD Smith to be the next Member for Stuart.
Smith, the town’s resident engineer, made an outstanding contribution
to the development of Alice Springs and the Territory – he is perhaps
remembered for overseeing the construction and sealing of the north
Highway during World War Two.
The Legislative Council now had eight elected members (still two from
Central Australia) as against six appointed official members, and also
three non-official members, one of whom was Bernie Kilgariff.
In August 1965 the Member for Alice Springs, Colonel AL Rose, announced
the formation of an independent conservative party, the North Australia
Based in the Alice, the NAP (now recognized as the forerunner of the
CLP) fielded five candidates in the hotly contested election campaign
of October 1965, but only one succeeded – this was AGW (Tony)
Greatorex, who took Stuart.
Ironically, Rose was defeated by the Labor candidate, Charlie Orr – the
only time that the ALP has ever won a seat in Alice Springs.
Greatorex, as a Country Party member, was re-elected in Stuart in 1968
Bernie Kilgariff, also Country Party, defeated Labor’s Charlie Orr in
1968 to become the Member for Alice Springs.
In August 1969, Tony Greatorex was chosen by his parliamentary
colleagues as President of the Legislative Council to replace Harry
Chan, who had died in office.
Greatorex held this position for five years until the Legislative
Council was formally ended in October 1974.
By this time there were 11 elected members in the NT, but still only
two based in the Centre.
This changed with the commencement of the fully-elected Legislative
Assembly in late 1974, when four out of 19 electorates were based in
Central Australia – these were Stuart, Alice Springs, Gillen and
The Territory’s conservative groups combined to form the Country
Liberal Party (the first branch was in Alice Springs) which swept into
office, winning 17 electorates with two independents making up the
balance – Labor did not win any seats.
The CLP’s emphatic victory was the first signal in Australia of voter
disenchantment with the Whitlam Labor government in Canberra; it was
also the beginning
of its unbroken political dominance in the NT for 27 years.
The new Member for Stuart in 1974 was Roger Vale, commencing a 20 year
political career as an immensely popular local politician.
Stuart included a part of urban Alice Springs within its boundaries in
the 1970s but Vale enjoyed a significant personal following from
voters in the bush, in large part due to his membership of the Pioneer
Club and his active role in the Central Australian Football League.
This support was crucial for Vale’s successful re-election in 1977,
when the CLP suffered a widespread swing against it in the lead-up to
self-government of the NT.
Two bush seats either side of Stuart – MacDonnell to the south and
Victoria River in the north – fell to Labor.
MacDonnell was held by Labor for 20 years (18 of them under Neil Bell)
until the CLP’s John Elferink won the seat in 1997.
The loss of Victoria River in 1977 was a severe blow to the CLP, for it
was the seat of the party’s leader, Dr Goff Letts (the deputy leader,
Grant Tambling, also lost his Darwin-based seat).
However, this might be described as a “Pyrrhic defeat” for Labor, as it
led to the rise of Paul Everingham, who became the Territory’s first
Roger Vale retained Stuart for one more term after the 1980 elections.
In 1983, Everingham oversaw an increase of electorates from 19 to 25,
of which six were based in or around Alice Springs.
The old seat of Alice Springs gave way to Sadadeen, and Gillen became
Araluen, plus there were two new electorates, Flynn and Braitling (the
latter included all of the urban area that had once been in Stuart).
Vale transferred to Braitling.
As in 1974, the elections of December 1983 were an electoral bloodbath,
with the CLP winning 19 seats and Labor the remainder.
One of the seats the ALP took was Stuart under new member Brian Ede,
commencing an unbroken dominance by Labor to this day.
It was also in 1983 that the CLP pioneered a new tactic of running two
candidates in an electorate – this was done in Arafura and Victoria
Labor retained Arafura but Victoria River fell to the CLP’s Terry
McCarthy, the only occasion that this tactic has worked (at least as
far as declared same-party candidates are concerned).
I joined the CLP as a member of the Flynn Branch in 1984.
The Flynn Branch provided the CLP’s candidates for Stuart, MacDonnell
and Barkly as well as Flynn itself in the NT elections of March 1987,
but all except for Flynn were unsuccessful.
In Alice Springs the seat of Sadadeen was retained by incumbent member
Denis Collins as an independent conservative after he had lost CLP
preselection to Shane Stone.
The CLP’s fortunes waned further after the loss of the Flynn
by-election in September 1988, which fell to the NT Nationals’ Enzo
This situation set the scene for some interesting developments in
Central Australian during 1990.
NO GOLD MINE GLITTER FOR THE ALICE: ROTTEN ROAD FORCES BUSINESS TO WA.
By ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Alice is losing hundreds of thousands of dollars as Tanami Gold mining
company sources most of its labour and supplies from elsewhere due to
poor state of the Tanami Road.
The company started extracting gold from the Coyote mine in May and is
currently finalising construction of the treatment plant.
The mine is expected to generate about $25m a year from the production
of around 70,000 ounces annually.
Located 18km from the Western Australian boarder and 730km down the
Tanami Road from Alice Springs, heavy rains in April closed the road
“Central Australia is a very prospective place for mining but the
infrastructure really impacts on the development of projects here,”
says Denis Waddell,
the executive chairman of Tanami Gold.
“There was no way we could get services through from Alice in April as
the roads were impossible to use after the wet.
“The worst areas were 100km each side of the border [NT and WA].
“We had to evacuate people by helicopter in April due to sections of
the roads being washed out.
“The cost of access and damage to trucks and plant equipment.
“The delays in getting equipment and people to site due to the state of
the roads, has cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“It added a significant cost to the project.”
From April, Tanami Gold began increasingly sourcing supplies and labour
from WA and Darwin.
Mr Waddell said he couldn’t give a dollar figure of exactly how much
Alice is missing out on, but says it is “hundreds of thousands of
“We would be pleased to use Alice Springs as the major supply centre if
access was better all year.
“However, we need to run our operations as efficiently and cost
effectively as possible which often requires sourcing services and
“Well funded infrastructure in Central Australia is critical for the
development of new projects such as the Coyote Gold Project, as such
on local employment in Central Australia and the opportunities for
employment and training of people from remote communities and business
opportunities for remote communities.”
Mr Waddell has raised the issue informally with the NT government and
also discussed the infrastructure problems with the Governor-General
who opened the mine.
“We’ve raised it a number of times.
“It’s not the sort of thing that gets funded or addressed overnight
although it must be given serious consideration and priority.
“Work has been done to improve the roads but a longer term
infrastructure plan and funding commitment needs to be put in place by
the NT and federal governments.”
The Alice News asked NT Minister for Transport Delia Lawrie whether she
took responsibility for the loss of goods and services from Central
She responded with a statement: “Priorities for road funding are
determined in consultation with organisations such as the Cattleman’s
Association and the NT Minerals Council.
“The Tanami Road is part of this process.
“This year’s total NT Government expenditure on this road is budgeted
“Various works include resealing / shoulder works / grading /
patchworks / drainage.
“One contract of works is currently underway and will be complete by
“Another two major contracts are also about to be advertised and
TOURIST LEFT CROSSED LEGGED, GETS A ‘GRUMPY MESSAGE’ FROM SENIOR
A disabled visitor from England was left upset after walking 15 minutes
to the new council loos on Sunday and finding they were closed with no
alternative facilities suggested.
Gina Everson had surgery on her spine in May and walks with crutches.
Her husband, Mike Everson, went back to the council on Monday to
complain but was told by the receptionist to write a letter.
“I said I was visiting from England and I don’t have time to write in,”
says Mr Everson.
“I asked if she could pass on my complaint for me but she said ‘they
don’t listen to me’.
“If they can’t open the toilet on Sundays, at least make an exception
on market day: there were hundreds of people at the market and we
watched other people doing the same as us, going up to the toilets and
walking away disgusted they weren’t open.”
Mr Everson also said that it was difficult to find the toilet.
“All the signs were pointing away from the Todd Mall.”
Eric Peterson, the acting CEO of the council and the director of
technical services said that last month the council had approved that
be open on Saturday and Sunday mornings between 8am and 12noon, but
they were closed last Sunday.
“This was because of difficulties finding cleaning staff.”
About Mr Everson’s complaint he said: “Staff should take notes of any
complaints and they are reviewed by management.
“If Mr Everson wishes to send us a letter then it is appropriate he
should do so.”
He said the council will review the opening hours of the toilets in
“If public support is there for extended service hours we will look
into that but we will have to look at staffing, rostering and the
The Alice News passed on Mr Everson’s telephone number to Mr Peterson.
Mr Everson told us that he received a “grumpy message” from Mr
Peterson, with his telephone number.
“We tried to ring the number twice but it wouldn’t work.
“We’re not sure what to make of that,” said Mr Everson.
DRYING OUT THE ALICE: WHERE WILL THE DRINKERS GO?
By KIERAN FINNANE.
In the new look dry town of Alice, where will the drinkers go, wants to
know Loraine Braham.
She means of course, public drinkers: “The government fails to
acknowledge alcohol issues mainly affect Aboriginal people who are not
allowed to drink in their own homes and, because of this, they want to
drink in our back
yard,” says Mrs Braham.
The Licensing Commission’s response, through a spokesperson is
“There are many different licensed premises in Alice Springs, more than
80 that offer drinkers a wide range of choices of venue to drink.
“These are venues that have in place license conditions and laws which
mean that people should be drinking responsibly.
“People of course are entitled to drink in their own home, unless they
themselves have requested assistance in controlling alcohol in their
“If dry area applications are made over public places, then there are
still opportunities to have functions in these places. It just
means that someone will be responsible for the responsible service and
Mrs Braham also protests against the restriction of cask wines, which
from October 1 will only be available after 6pm, and in casks no
Fortified wines are restricted to container size of one litre. And only
one of either product per person per day can be purchased, with camera
surveillance to ensure compliance.
Says the Licensing Commission: “Evidence already gathered in an
Alice Springs context points to these products as instrumental in
hospital admissions, high assaults, and high exacerbation of chronic
“By limiting the sale to later in the day, rather than by banning the
products altogether, the Commission is seeking to address the main
harmful effects of these products without unduly affecting the general
“The Commission has announced though, that it is willing to hear any
solutions or schemes to solve the problem of those who are not able to
6pm, particularly old age pensioners.”
The commission is exploring the option of a licensing system to
purchase alcohol, with a trial underway in Gove at the moment.
The commission’s Chris McIntyre, deputy director of licensing for the
southern region, spoke to the town council on Monday night about the
details of the Alice Springs Alcohol Management Plan, released last
The new regime is not a trial but it will be closely monitored he said,
with particular attention paid to product switching.
Licensees will supply monthly product figures which will be analysed by
the commission and an alcohol reference panel made up of government,
town council and other “stakeholder” representatives.
The plan is “a living document” which will “evolve over time”, said Mr
Alderman David Koch urged the council to support, via a letter to the
commission, the introduction, as a condition of licensing, of a
software product capable of rapidly recognising people’s
It would allow networking between outlets, helping ensure that
customers had not purchased a restricted product anywhere else in Alice
Springs that day.
It would also be useful in identifying underage drinkers and banned
“I spent 28 years in the hospitality industry,” said Ald Koch, former
licensee of the Todd Tavern.
“If I were still in the industry I would support this. It would make
life so much easier.”
A majority of aldermen agreed.
Ald Melanie van Haaren sought support for a motion endorsing the
alcohol management plan, but was defeated.
She told the Alice News: “The plan closely resembles the national
[alcohol] plan, customized of course for Alice.
“Nationally the big swing has been away from putting health in the box
seat and turning our attention to ways to reduce/minimize the harm
“For the first time ever, given this huge change, local government [in
the national plan] has been put at the helm, and is now not just a
stakeholder, but an entity with roles.
“Council decided not to endorse the plan, thereby as far as I am
concerned, abdicating their unique responsibility to provide leadership
in this area.
“Council will be out of sync with other councils around Australia as a
result of this decision.”
Ald Robyn Lambley reminded Ald van Haaren of the town council’s recent
contribution to the debate around the local plan, which included
takeaway trading hours. She didn’t want council to be seen as
Ald van Haaren also unsuccessfully sought council’s in principle
support for the Commonwealth’s provision of short-term managed
accommodation (see our lead story).
She told the Alice News: “As we all know this has been extremely
controversial and the interest level high.
“Council decided not to make comment. Then they complained that
Minister Brough is not talking to council about the proposal. Why
We apparently have no opinion”
On Monday aldermen preferred to wait until they consider in greater
detail all of the recommendations of the Town Camps Taskforce at their
forum meeting next week.
Ald Samih Habib expressed great indignation that aldermen had not been
made aware of Mal Brough’s visit on the weekend: “We are being treated
Ald Lambley learnt of the visit two minutes before going on air and
being asked to comment on it: “I felt very compromised,” she said.
There was general agreement that communication on the matter had been
poor and it will be taken up with the mayor, who was part of Mr
of the Tyeweretye Club. Aldermen were advised that notice to the mayor,
member of the town camps implementation committee, had been very short.
NO WORK NO PAY WORKS.
By ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Fears that new no work no pay rules in remote communities would cause
an urban drift into Alice Springs have been unfounded in the case of
Ali Curung, says their council CEO, Karen Worth.
The community, some 400 kms north of Alice, had its remote area
exemption lifted on July 1
“Initially in July there was apprehension among the people here. They
thought it was just another scheme. And we thought there could have
been an urban drift into Alice Springs but that hasn’t happened,” says
“We have been able to achieve a lot more for the community because
people are more productive.
“I’m proud that they’ve taken it on board.
“It is an important long term plan for communities. They are taking
responsibility for themselves and their future.”
Kaytetye man Noel Hayes is administration manager for the council. He
agrees that his people are committed to the program.
“They are joining up with CDEP now. It has taken them a while to go to
work after sitting down on the dole for a long time. But now they are
to the CDEP office and looking for work. They are coming back from
Creek and other communities back to Ali Curung.
“With these new farming projects coming up, there will be jobs for
everybody who wants to work. It will benefit the community and the
people to no end.
“Nobody suffering and there is no hardship [if they breach their
obligation]. They got families [to help them out in the short term].”
The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations has given Ms Worth
a goal of getting 170 members of the community onto CDEP.
There are currently 400 living on the community and 100 at the
neighbouring Murray Downs.
Before July 1 there was 83 on the program, now there are 150. Around 80
per cent are working a 20 hour week on average, in the health clinic,
the school and the store.
The remainder who are not turning up for work are not being paid.
Ms Worth believes the no work no pay rule is an important motivator,
not a cruelty.
“In normal working environments, if you don’t turn up for work, you
won’t get paid and a normal working environment is what we’re
ultimately trying to achieve for communities. “When you’ve got no money
coming in you’re going to learn, aren’t you?
“And no one starves. When one person doesn’t have any money, the rest
of the family helps.
“And it’s not just a process happened overnight, it’s not something
that has been forced on them. Meetings were held between government
departments and the community last year so everyone is aware about the
Ms Worth says the long term goal is to get people into sustainable
“The aim is to convert CDEP to real jobs.
“I can’t say how long it will be but we are putting projects into place
with long term objectives,” says Ms Worth.
One example has just started: a vegetable garden. Land is being dug and
prepared by 40 men and women, with a crop of zucchinis, bush tomatoes,
corn, tomatoes, watermelon and rockmelon due to be harvested by
Christmas. Eventually it is hoped there will 10 to 12 full time jobs in
the garden, planting, harvesting and selling to Alice Springs.
A propagation shed is also being built.
Other ideas being investigated include tourism: Ali Curung is easily
accessible by road.
“I can’t comment on specifics at the moment but we’re developing a
comprehensive plan,” says Ms Worth.
Ms Worth says she hopes other communities will follow.
“I would emphasise how good this has been to the community.
“People understand that there is now no work, no pay and we’re getting
a lot of productivity with our mob out here.”
By June 30 2008, 56 remote communities in Central Australia will have
the no work no pay dole rule enforced.
People living in communities outside a 90km radius of the job market of
Alice Springs are currently not required to work for the dole, except
where the exemption has been lifted.
Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa) is likely to have its remote area
exemption rule lifted in six months’ time, after the Ltyentye Apurte
Government Council and its CEO, Wally Litvensky, met with the
of Employment and Workplace Relations last week.
There are approximately 70 people on Centrelink benefits with 135
residents on CDEP at Ltyentye Apurte.
“People on the community have a good work ethic, and Santa Teresa has
been known for that since the 1950s,” said Mr Litvensky.
“I think people who aren’t on CDEP will move into it.”
Mr Litvensky said options for long term employment on the community
were discussed, including producing fruit from the orchard there and
developing tourism. Tours have sporadically been visiting the arts
centre and Catholic church to view the art murals there since last
“This program has to be about meaningful employment which will give
them the opportunity to go into full time employment.
“The orchard will be able to be rejuvenated, and we have the goods for
tourism especially in the area of the arts where Santa Teresa is
nationally and internationally known.
“But enterprise won’t happen overnight.
“The people here need training and education so they can work in these
areas effectively. Batchelor College is looking into the training needs
required to develop people’s skills, however I know they don’t have the
human resources to provide all that is needed here in Santa Teresa for
VANDALS IN BUSH.
A campsite where mother and daughter team, Betty and Esther Pearce, are
conducting cultural tours has been vandalised.
A dozen trees were cut down recently at the site, off the Yuendumu Road
north of Alice Springs, right next to a campfire circle of rocks.
The site is a former stock route and is now Aboriginal land.
“We’re trying to set an example of how you can get out of the welfare
cycle, and then this is done to us,” says Betty.
The vandals obviously used a chainsaw, took the trunks with them and
left the twigs and branches lying around.
The site is a small part of several square kilometres of Aboriginal
land, and the two women think there was a clear attempt to target them.
PROGRESS OR RUIN?
By ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Residents say it’s an eyesore, out of character with the area, blocking
views and infringing privacy, but the developer says the six two storey
units at 5 Hawkins Court in Gillen will increase the value of the area.
Nine objections to the development were received when the application
was publicly exhibited last July and all but one resident from Hawkins
attended the Development Consent Authority’s (DCA) meeting.
John Dermody has been a resident of Gillen for 30 years and lives in
Hawkins Court. He is concerned the units will lead to inappropriate
in the area.
“I don’t have a problem with development as long as it is within the
“Developments in R2 zones are supposed to be within the [character] of
the area: putting six two storey units on one block opens the
for continued multi-storey inappropriate development.
“Among other things the Alice Springs town plan states that development
is to ‘maintain existing domestic residential character of the area’,
and ‘all multiple dwellings are to be compatible with the scale and
character of the locality’.
“Apart from a granny flat at back of 6 Hawkins, there are no other
units in the area, let alone multi two storey.
“When the house next door [number five] was sold seven years ago, it
was the most expensive ever in Gillen: it sold for $350,000.
“The poor adjoining property has virtually lost all their privacy.”
Rob McKeaig, the owner of 5 Hawkins Court wrote to the Development
Consent Authority, organised a petition and attended its meeting in
He and his family moved to Adelaide for business and he put his house
on the market. After three months it didn’t sell so he took it off the
“We’ll lose $50,000 because of this. You know how quickly property goes
in Alice Springs. We couldn’t even get anyone through to have a look at
it – they saw the development next door and didn’t bother to come in.
“No one wants to have a unit balcony staring into their rooms.”
He says the DCA’s system is undemocratic.
“We took pictures from our roof showing how the balconies of the new
units would look directly into our kid’s bedrooms. We presented all
this information to the board but they didn’t change the plans. They
only made slight alterations: to put established plants down our
boundary fence. “Developers rule the roost there.”
The developer, Tony Bandiera, agreed to put up partial screens on
verandahs to limit overlooking and tall trees (up to 7m high) will be
Mr Dermody and six other residents also wrote to the DCA and the then
minister for planning, Chris Burns.
“It was pointless making any effort,” said Mr Dermody.
“My letters were treated with contempt.
“And the response I got from the DCA and the minister’s office were
“He just rubber stamped everything without even the courtesy of
department staff coming to have a look.
“The DCA can do what it likes because for residential development like
this there is no avenue for appeal.
“They put a few conditions on but they are meaningless and
“The initial plans put forward had the front unit in such a location
that a car could not enter the carport as the turning area was too
It was up to objectors to point this out to the DCA.”
Mr Bandiera says the complex will contain some of the most luxurious
apartments in Alice: he says each of the 200 square metre units will
have its own swimming pool, three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a double
“They’ll sell for $440,000 each,” says Mr Bandiera.
“It will make the area much nicer and the new housing will bring a
different type of person living in Gillen.”
He maintains that he’s not breaching the town plan.
“In terms of keeping within the nature of the area: what do they expect
me to do, build units that are 30 years old?
“There are units already in Gillen everywhere. There is no land
available in Alice Springs: the inner area will become a built up zone
like any city.
“In 50 years time there might be units on the golf course.”
He says that the development isn’t too close to neighbouring houses.
“I could have built eight units on this size of land but I’m only
Four fires have been lit on the building site over the past four
months, causing over $30,000 in damage to building materials.
In response to Mr Dermody’s complaint about the development, the then
Minister, Dr Burns, replied: “While I acknowledge the issues you have
development application has been dealt with by the DCA in accordance
due process and commensurate with its statutory responsibilities under
Planning Act including considerations of its submissions made by the
When Mr Dermody wrote to him again repeating the specific questions he
failed to answer in his first reponse, Dr Burns replied:
“It would be inappropriate for me to respond to many of the questions
“I must reiterate that I understand the matter has been dealt with by
the Development Consent Authority.”
MISSION TO MOSQUE: RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY.
Final in a series by ELISABETH ATTWOOD looking at the varying fortunes
of organised religions in Alice Springs. (See Parts One and Two on Aug
and Sep 7).
Worshipping God is more than just church buildings and “bottoms on
pews”, says Associate Pastor Robert Borgas of the Lutheran Church in
Pastor Borgas says education and Aboriginal ministry are the Lutheran
Church’s “biggest responsibility” in Central Australia.
The church supports Indigenous people through its Finke River Mission
and maintains a strong relationship with its original church in
Hermannsburg, founded in 1877. Worship services are also led by
Aboriginal pastors and
evangelists at many other outstations and communities in Central
including the town camps in Alice Springs.
Worship at Gap Road in Alice began in the 1930s and was originally held
under the old gum tree on the so called “mission block”.
Today there are over 500 baptised Lutherans in town.
“Our foundation stone has the words, ‘Many Members – One Body’,” says
“Our congregation certainly reflects these words with a diverse
membership of people with a variety of backgrounds.”
Each week, about 250 people worship at the two Sunday worship services.
“We also have a Sunday school and two vibrant youth groups,” says
Pastor Borgas says denominational loyalty remains strong among many of
their Aboriginal members today.
“But because Alice is such a transient yet isolated town, attending a
particular denomination is becoming less important for many other
“We have people who come from all denominations attending our church
because they go to a church they like: it meets the style of worship
they’re comfortable with, or it might be the church that is closest or
The church also spreads its message through its two schools in town:
Living Waters and Yirara College, which have a combined student
population of 550.
Denominations working together is the future in small isolated areas
such as Tennant Creek, says Pastor Borgas.
In Tennant the Lutheran Church has a special agreement with the
Anglican Church so both can worship together every Sunday at 9am, at
And in Alice Springs different churches cooperate, through the
Ministers Fellowship, for activities such as Carols by Candlelight or
monies for a chaplain at the hospital.
The fellowship is made up of ministers representing the Uniting,
Anglican, Catholic, Baptist, Salvation Army, Pentecostal and Lutheran
Other faith communities in Alice Springs include the Baha’i, with about
The faith believes all religions are spiritually united and come from
the same source: there is one god and one human family.
There are no priests nor clergy.
“The teachings of Baha’u’llah have a theme of unity,” says Jasmine Bell
of Alice’s Baha’i community.
“We hope to put into practice the teachings to bring more unity in the
The Baha’i in Alice meet at a unity hall and also each other’s houses.
Ms Bell says the size of the community has remained the same since she
has been in town.
“I don’t think it’s changed over 18 months, although over the last 10
years it has grown throughout Australia and remains a growing
Ms Bell says everyone is welcome to join the community: “Lots of people
who aren’t Baha’i take part in our activities. We like to have lots of
things going on so people can learn about Baha’i.”
In the last holidays they ran a program for children between 11 and 15
focused on learning how to make a united world.
They have study groups which anyone is free to join.
The recruitment of skilled migrants in Alice Springs is attracting a
greater number of Muslims, and the mosque in town is reporting a
of people attending: around 20 regularly coming to pray with up to 100
attending the mosque’s festivals held several times a year.
“There are a lot of professional people like doctors, engineers and
nurses taking jobs here in Central Australia,” says Abdul Khan,
president of Alice Spring Islamic Community.
“It’s a very important meeting place for people and for celebrating
various activities. And for the younger generation it is becoming an
increasingly important place: we hold a number of religious, social and
The mosque is about to build a house for the imam.
“Before we have organised just temporary accommodation,” says Mr Khan.
“Now we are in a position to build a permanent residence.”
ALICE'S IRWIN TRIBUTE.
Steve Irwin will be remembered in Alice Springs when the Reptile Centre
holds a celebration of his life next Tuesday.
The centre is organising the event after it received cards, flowers and
telephone calls requesting something be done locally to remember him.
Irwin, who died on Monday of last week, visited the Reptile Centre in
February 2003. He handled pythons and a goanna called Bub which
famously bit him
on the arm twice.
“It will be a family day and a kids day: a celebration of his life and
how he lived it,” says Rex Neindorf (pictured above), owner of the
“Kids might want to come dressed in khaki, they can bring their toy
crocodiles and blonde wigs.
“We’ll have a big card for people to sign and forward that on to the
Donations raised from a sausage sizzle will go to Wildcare, the local
group which looks after injured wildlife.
“We want to keep the money local,” said Neindorf who’ll never forget
meeting the naturalist and international television celebrity in the
“He was exuberant and had no reverse gear. He was pumped up even when
the camera switched off.
“His death is tragic. But it will be a great legacy if his death turns
conservation into a real issue.
“He’s made reptiles lovable all over the world and I hope that
5.30pm, at the Reptile Centre, Stuart Terrace.
SPIRIT GOES ON, THE LITTLE SCHOOL THAT WON’T SAY DIE.
Celebration not disappointment was the theme of this year’s
Irrkerlantye Festival Night held last Thursday.
The school part of the centre was finally closed earlier this year but
the learning centre is still operating for adults and informally for
On Thursday, the small grounds of the centre were bursting with life:
colourful flags welcomed visitors, with Aboriginal children dancing,
playing instruments with the percussion group Tumbarumba.
Traditional dot paintings and sepia etchings made by children and
adults of the centre adorned the outside walls, and the basketball
turned into a concert venue as the group Drum Atweme (made up of former
Irrkerlantye students) drummed the night away.
Smells of foods being sold from around the world made mouths water for
the many different people who supported the evening, from politicians
“We wanted to show tonight that not even the minister’s decision could
break us up.
“That’s how strong-knit a community Irrkerlantye is,” said manager
“Tonight it looks like our kids haven’t left. They still come back for
breakfast and lunch and for Aboriginal culture.
“It’s really like the school has just shifted locations: most of the
kids are at Bradshaw and Alice Springs High School but they still come
Ms Maidment said many of the old teachers who left Irrkerlantye in
protest after the school closed volunteered their time at the festival.
“They are here alongside the new teachers. It shows how strong the
backbone is of the centre.”
LUDICROUS TIMES TWO.
By CULUMNIST ADAM CONNELLY.
I love this country a lot. We all do. No surprises there.
Australia is a great nation built from very humble and almost shameful
beginnings. I love all the qualities John Howard keeps going on about.
egalitarianism and a fair go are, when done properly, fantastic tools
But that’s not why I love this country. It’s not for the standard
reasons that get thrown around on Ray Martin specials.
They’re great but there is something greater. There is something about
the people who call this country home that you just don’t get with any
The thing that sets us apart is so engrained here in Central Australia.
I love this country because better than any other country I know, we
Australians are masters at celebrating all that is ludicrous.
Oh yes, when it comes to the absurd we revel in it. Here in the Alice
is no exception.
The Henley on Todd has to be our crowning achievement in the pursuit of
that celebration. Even if we don’t go along we love the idea that it
exists. One town’s celebration of the fact that their river doesn’t
often fulfill the job description.
The regatta will be on this weekend and for many thousands of people
who come to the Alice at this time of year it will not just be a
quirky event to tell people of at home but also a look into the minds
the local population. Who says we can’t have a regatta?
Sure we’re missing a couple of fairly vital ingredients but that’s
nothing a bit of ingenuity can’t overcome.
Imagine for a moment the first time you heard of the Henley on Todd.
What did you think? Ludicrous! Men and women sweating it out for
victory in a
competition that when you boil it down means less to the greater
than the fight for the blue ribbon in the Easter hat parade.
Yet these competitors, many of whom wouldn’t run for the bus most days,
race shin deep in sand for the prize. The “boats” are elaborate
for one purpose, a ludicrous amount of fun and mess.
And what is more ludicrous is that we watch!
The Desert Festival has just wrapped up for another year and it seems
to me to be a slightly different type of ludicrous.
I have a performance background and as such have performed in and seen
many festival like activities.
But seriously, if I see one more experimental theatre piece, which
explores birth, rebirth or the sociopolitical impact of corduroy, I may
I always though that art had to have something people wanted to look
at. Sure that sounds like an anti-art stance but to me if art doesn’t
get seen then it’s just stuff.
The hub space is a place flagged as the meeting point for those who
wish to enjoy the festival. But surrounding the fine dancing, the
films and the outstanding music were ludicrous artistic comments on
in the centre.
Why do hippies have to make stuff out of trash? Make an effort and buy
some new material for Pete’s sake. It’s a festival, get a grant.
The festival content was fantastic. Lots of amazing things you don’t
get to see everyday.
Intertwined through all of the great stuff at not only this festival
but also festivals all over the country are these ludicrous papier
recycled raffia constructions that make the event look more commune
But for all the whinging I do about the “alternative” elements I must
confess that without them I’d be lost at a festival. No points of
So in two weeks, two very different types of ludicrous. And that’s the
We even have different types of ludicrous to celebrate. So here’s my
challenge to you my fellow Australians, sometime this week revel in our
Wear a hat made out of beer cans or replace your beer at the pub with a
breezer without telling your mates why. Something out there.
And if your friends give you grief remember … I’ll be proud.
Back to frontpage the Alice Springs News.